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Evista May Help Prevent Endometrial Cancer

Osteoporosis Drug May also Prevent Breast Cancer
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WebMD Health News

May 16, 2005 (Orlando, Fla.) -- Researchers say a drug prescribed for osteoporosis may protect against endometrial cancer.

Women who took Evista "had about half the risk of endometrial cancer than those not using the drug," says researcher Angela DeMichele, MD, associate professor of medicine at the Abramson Cancer Center at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia.

Evista is a drug known as a selective estrogen receptor modulator (SERM). It has positive estrogen-like effects on bone and protects against osteoporosis -- a bone-thinning disease.

However, the drug also blocks estrogen's effect on breast tissue. Some breast cancer cells grow in response to estrogen. SERMs reduce the risk of breast cancer by blocking estrogen receptors in breast cells.

DeMichele's study shows that Evista may be of benefit for endometrial-cancer protection in addition to its breast cancer protective effects. Endometrial cancer is a cancer of the lining of the uterus.

Evista Drops Risk of Cancer

For high-risk women, tamoxifen is the first and only drug approved for the prevention of breast cancer. But tamoxifen has been associated with an increased risk of endometrial cancer.

So doctors have been searching for alternative drugs for breast cancer prevention, including the bone-building drug Evista. The new study shows that Evista protects against endometrial cancer.

In DeMichele's study, women who used Evista were 50% less likely to have been diagnosed with endometrial cancer than women who never used the drug.

Overall, "users of tamoxifen were about three times more likely to develop endometrial cancer than users of Evista," DeMichele says. And women who took tamoxifen were about 50% more likely to develop the disease than nonusers, she says.

The study was presented at the annual meeting of the American Society for Clinical Oncology.

Ongoing Trial Could Open New Doors for Evista

The study included 547 women with endometrial cancer and 1,412 women without the disease. The researchers were actually looking at genetic risk factors associated with endometrial cancer when they stumbled across the link to the drugs.

Despite the promising data, DeMichele stresses that Evista is approved only for the prevention and treatment of osteoporosis.

But experts say that could change after completion of a large trial sponsored by the National Cancer Institute, known as STAR, that is comparing the two drugs for their ability to prevent breast cancer.

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